Tales of Heresy – A Horus Heresy Anthology – Review

The first collection of short stories

Tales of Heresy is the first anthology in The Horus Heresy series. It collects seven short stories together from authors such as Dan Abnett, Anthony Reynolds and Graham McNeill. As a collection, it is fantastic. There are a few fantastic stories in here, a couple of good ones a few that while noticeably less interesting aren’t terrible by any means. I’m not going to go in-depth on all seven here (I’ll probably do individual reviews for each eventually). Instead, I’m going to give you an overview and let you know what this anthology adds to the overall story of the heresy. Let’s get started, shall we?

Alpha Legion - Army
Image Credit: WarheadsByLink

The first story in Tales of Heresy is a great one to start with. Blood Games by Dan Abnett follows the Custodes as they prepare for the Warmasters attack on Terra. As the title suggests they conduct Blood Games (war games) to play out specific scenarios to see what might happen if Horus tried something similar. This story gives an interesting insight into what the Custodes do while protecting the Emperor and links in nicely with the wider story. While it’s not the best story in this collection, it’s far from the worst. However, I think it struggles in the second half as we explore a conspiracy with one of the nobles. That being said, it is still an enjoyable read or listen.

The second story Wolf at the Door by Mike Lee is my second favourite. It follows a pack of Space Wolves as they try to bring a planet into the fold of the Emperor. However, the planet refuses and it turns out they are under frequent attack from an alien menace to whom they pay tribute. The Space Wolves team up with some locals to fight back and then there’s the ending which I won’t spoil. This story is great. It has some intense action scenes, but it also takes the time to explore how vulnerable each planet of humanity is individual. It then also addresses what happens if you don’t want to join the Imperium and the subsequent fallout. If I had to name and issue with this story it would be that you could replace the Space Wolves with basically any other legion and the story would be the same. However, that is a minor quibble for an awesome story.

Raven Guard - Scout
Image Credit: Michael Sykes

The third story in Tales of Heresy concerns the Word Bearers. Scions of the Storm by Anthony Reynolds struggled to engage me. It’s set after Monarchia (a city made in worship to the Emperor that was set ablaze by the Ultramarines) and sees them continue the Great Crusade with more zealotry that before. We see them share similarities with the world they are attacking and lean more and more towards the Word Bearers to come. However, none of the characters grabbed me and the conclusion to the story was one I saw coming a mile off and wasn’t all that interesting. While this isn’t a bad story, you know enough from my small description to essentially have read it from start to finish.

The fourth story on our list is The Voice by James Swallow is an interesting one. If you’ve read the Flight of the Eisenstein then you’ll see some familiar faces here. The likes of Leilani Mollitas making a return. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and it’s one of the anthologies best. It follows the Sisters of Silence as the venture to a drifting depowered Black Ship. Black Ships are prisons for psykers and something has happened on this one. The events that follow add a lot of flavour and depth to the Sisters and psykers. Again, I won’t spoil it but if you enjoyed the Sisters in Flight of the Eisenstein and want to see where those characters go next, check out The Voice.

Next, we have the low point of the Tales of Heresy, Call of the Lion by Gav Thorpe. In this, we see Terran and Callibanite Astartes clash with differing approaches to the Great Crusade. On one hand, I enjoyed the counterbalance but on the other nobody is likeable (or dislikeable) enough to care about the outcome. I continue to want to enjoy the Dark Angels but stories like this don’t help their cause.

The Last Church by Graham McNeill is brilliant. It tells the story of the last church on Earth before the Emperor launched The Great Crusade. It looks back on the early history of the Imperium showing a small insight into the Emperor himself. Throughout, The Last Church also explores the power of faith and religion. While the Emperor’s stance on religion is a little trite, that is the point and makes the irony of the 40,000 timeline all the greater. At the same time though, The Last Church frames the Emperor as a megalomaniac. While he blames all of humanities atrocities on religion he kills billions in his unification of Terra and subsequent crusade across the galaxy. It’s my favourite story of this anthology and acts as a great jumping-off point for the Horus Heresy.

Black Legion - Troops
Image Credit: Sigma Two

Finally, we have After Desh’ea by Matthew Farrer which details the first meeting between Kharn and his Primarch, Angron. It’s a fierce story and showcases the strength and brutality of the lord of the World Eaters but it also takes its time to show you a lot about Kharn. We get some insight into Angron’s life before the coming of the Imperium and why a Primarch is so important to a legion. As a big World Eater fan on and off the table, this story packed so many punches through its action and emotional delve into Angron’s psyche. Seeing Angron struggle to come to terms with his new position and the events of the world he grew up on helps give clarity to his bouts of rage and why he chose to join Horus. It’s an excellently crafted story that is well worth your time.

And that’s the full anthology. To wrap it up, Wolf at the Door, The Voice, The Last Church and After Desh’ea are amazing, Blood Games and Scions of the Storm are good, and Call of the Lion is alright. At some point, I might do full reviews of each of these short stories but for now, keep an eye out for more reviews of the Horus Heresy series.

Thanks for reading. If you want more Horus Heresy short stories, then check out my review of The Lightning Tower which is a great look at Rogal Dorn. Alternatively, for a different sci-fi universe you should read Gav’s review of the Star Wars novel Aftermath.

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